August 27, 2014 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor
In case you have not noticed, lately, air quality has been pretty bad around Evansville for several days now. Yesterday, afternoon, fine particles reached a horrible level- 63.97µg/m3, almost twice the outdated 24 hour health standard of 35µg/m3. And they remained high throughout the evening and into today.
Levels were particularly high during practice and game time for school age athletes and band members who were not even aware that they were being subjected to such foul air.
Valley Watch has long sought a policy from the local school corporations to forego practices and games when air quality is an issue.
Our pleas have basically been dismissed by school officials and last night as particulate rose to high levels, kids were practicing and playing their chosen sports with the same intensity they would have been if the air quality had been healthy instead of unhealthy.
Health science is replete with knowledge that high particulate cause such issues as stroke, asthma, cancer, heart attacks, etc. and students whose lungs are not fully developed are vulnerable to being negatively impacted by high levels of pollution.
Valley Watch suggests that you call your local school board members demanding that they develop some sort of health based policy to deal with games and practices when air quality is poor in the region. And such a policy should not be only when an air pollution “alert’ is in place but when levels are bad enough to cause harm.
The reason for that caveat is that local and state environment officials have often failed to issue timely alerts until after the air quality has become dangerous, like yesterday when no alert was issued at all.
It is our view that schools should call off games and practices when air quality is bad, whether it is particles or ozone or any of the criteria pollutants. Further, since the local EPA has a record of failing to call alerts when they should, there should be someone in each school system to monitor air quality on days when the air is visible like it has been for the last week and when it gets near the health based standard for any criteria pollutant, they should act with haste to protect their students’ health first and foremost.